Suzybower's Blog

Creative ideas for church and youth ministry.

Letting go


Things needed:

– A4 Paper & pens

– Instructions on making origami boats

– A flowing river

What to do

People write down things they want to let go of. This could be a number of things such as regrets they are holding onto, people or situations they overly worried about, or a goodbye to someone who has died.

Once this has been written, make a boat out of the paper (click here for instructions).

Take it to a river, and voilà – a simple but potentially powerful act to symbolise letting these things go. For a Christian audience, the focus could be on letting them go and trusting God with them. Or the letters could be written to ask for forgiveness from God for things.

Perhaps you could read a poem or Bible verses, or say a prayer as the boats float away.

The story behind this lil idea

I recently heard some sad news about a friend of mine. I found it difficult to let go of worrying about the situation and to not carry it. This idea suddenly popped into my head on the way back from church after I had asked for prayer for the situation and that I would be able to let it go. In my job as a youth worker in schools I listen to a lot of young people who have difficult and chaotic lives. So I used this idea as an individual act of worship by writing a letter and making a boat out of it for my friend, but also for each of the young people that I need to make sure I don’t carry. I think I will do this from time to time to make sure I let these things go and trust God with them.

Some considerations…

Some of what I wrote in the letters the young people had told me in confidence. So I did not write any names in it, or anything that they would be able to be identified from. Perhaps being overly cautious, I stuck another piece of plain paper over each letter before I made it into a boat so no writing was visible – just in case!

I’m not sure it’s very eco friendly to be putting paper in rivers! I should look this up sometime and perhaps use eco friendly bio degradable paper. You may want to consider this if you are making more than a few boats.

My final consideration is that the swans thought that I was bringing them some lunch. In future I hope not to disappoint by providing them with something a bit more nutritious as a side order for the paper boats.

Sorry it’s been so long!

Just wanted to say that yes I am still alive, and yes I am still being creative (just living as a human being is a creative activity, so in that sense we hardly ever cease to be creative in some manner..but that’s another thought for another time*)! It’s been a busy time for me finishing off my degree, finding a job, finishing as youth worker at my placement, and then getting ready to move house (makes me tired just thinking about all that). It’s been a hectic few months, but by way of a lil update, I’m starting a schools work job in September – so hopefully I’ll have time to be able to continue with this blog but with a slightly different slant towards youth work in a school setting.

But for now, I’ve been packing my life into boxes for the past couple of weeks, and I’ve been reflecting as I’ve gone along because I’m cool like that. Firstly a reflection, and then a couple of creative ideas for you to get your teeth into.

Some Suzy thoughts…

I recently asked my lecturers from my course why they thought most students were affected in such a big way by doing the degree. One of them answered that it was all to do with boxes. As course leaders they acknowledge what box people seem to be in when they arrive, and they treat them as if they were not in that place. They encourage people to step out from their box and try a different one, or if they choose to stay put, at least explore why they are there and why they do not want to move.

I don’t really have a step by step break down of how they do this in reality – but as an ex-student I can tell you that it is so liberating! Whilst I’ve been surrounded by endless boxes recently as I get ready to move, I’ve been thinking about the boxes I put people in (conservative/liberal/naive/safe/cool/posh/won’t ever be a Christian/the type of person who will think I’m odd but not in a good way etc.). Moreover if they are in a box of their own or someone else’s accord, I’m not sure I’m always the first person to encourage them to get out and have a lil stroll. The more I think about it, the more I realise in all this talk about boxes, that it’s not really about the box at all, but the individuals or communities inside them. The more focussed I am on the person or people and their God given potential, the less the boxes matter. It then becomes less shocking if someone tries out a different box for size, before returning to their original or moving on again. Perhaps I’m waffling, I’m overly tired – it’s been a long day and I’m not sure I’m all that good at expressing the more reflective stuff in written words – I miss being able to gesticulate. Anyway, I’ll conclude. As I move on to a new job, in a new area, and meet new people I hope that I can view others not just by the box they are currently residing in, but instead see them in a more transient light. I would love to develop the art of facilitating box hopping!

I think I was being a bit overly ambitions, perhaps the creative ideas/resources bit will have to wait for another time. Hopefully some time soon!

* see Suzy’s amazing dissertation!

Lent Meal cont.

I ran with the idea from my previous post. Here is us sharing our special lent meal…

When talking of ‘skills’ (in the nepolian dynamite sense), I would pride myself on having good skills in the following areas: hospitality, cooking and baking. I must say that before the young people arrived I started getting nervous and felt a bit guilty that I was only going to feed them rice and water! Anyway, the young people responded really well, most of them found it amusing and they all ate a good plate or two full of rice. Here is the plan I settled on in the end (mostly taken from this rethinking youth ministry resource).

One of the main things that stuck with me after the experience was the fact that fairly soon after eating a big plate full of rice I was soon hungry again. All of the young people, except one, had something else to eat once they arrived back home. How fortunate we are to be able to fill up on other things from our kitchen cupboards, when many around the world would not have this option.

Anyway, let me know how you get on if you give this one a go. Especially if you take it down a different route to the one I went down, I’d love to hear what you and your young people make of it.

Lent Meal

[See also the follow up post to this one here]

Last year one of my friends decided that for the 40 days of lent he was only going to eat rice and daal, as this is the staple diet for many people around the world. However, after a few meals of daal he was ill and decided that he didn’t really like it. So he ended up just eating rice for 2 meals a day. I take my hat off to him that he managed to do it! He is giving it another go this year and has managed to persuade his wife to join him.

Although I would not ever recommend the rice diet to any of my young people, I wondered if there was some way I could use this idea in a youth group setting. My plan is to invite the youth group over for Sunday lunch, and then only serve them rice and water. During the meal there are a number of different possible directions I could head in (I suggest using only one!):

– Explore themes of lent through informal input and discussion. e.g. using the story of Jesus in the wilderness to spark discussion. Rethinking Youth Ministry Blog has a great e-book full of lent ideas, including a Bible study that could easily be adapted to use during the meal.

– Exploring the poverty and justice route. How fortunate we are to not expect rice and water for every meal. This lent time, be extra thankful about what God has given us. Perhaps commit to supporting a particular cause with time/money/fundraising etc.

– Simply have a few questions and a bit of input in mind, but then let the young people reflect on the meal themselves and come up with their own thoughts.


Jigsaw prayers – creative worship idea

Things needed: blank jigsaw, or jigsaw with picture of Jesus on, pens.

Buy a blank jigsaw, or make your own from a thick piece of card using a jigsaw template. If using the blank one you could ask people to write or draw prayers on a piece, and then pray for others requests as the jigsaw is constructed by the group.

Or alternatively you could print a picture of Jesus or the cross on the jigsaw, people could draw or write confessions on the back of a piece, and add it the jigsaw.

One of the pitfalls of alternative worship is it often more individually focussed. Putting the jigsaw together as a group brings in a lovely communal aspect to the activity. When God made the world he remarked at the end of most days that ‘it was good’. However, after the whole of creation was finished, it was only in this completeness that God thought it was ‘very good’. As human beings made in the image of a trinitarian God it is good for us to worship in community with others (Smail 2005). When we are all together, playing our part in the jigsaw that is church – I feel sure that God would see it as ‘very good’.

Post-it note prayers

Things needed: post-it notes (preferably in 3 different colours) and, pens.

Context: can be used in lots of different contexts.

This very simple idea uses the beautifully adaptable medium of post-it notes to facilitate prayer. If you have 3 different colours or shaped post-its then write the word ‘thanks’, ‘sorry’, or ‘please’ on each and stick them on some paper/the wall. It would be worth saying to people here that they do not need to write down their sorry prayers. They can just leave it blank, or draw a symbol or write a code word.

The group then spends some time writing or drawing prayers on the post-its and sticking them up with the rest (they follow the colours of the original ones, for example by writing their thanks prayers on pink, sorry prayers on yellow etc.).

This activity works well within a variety of contexts, but particularly with small groups. And it’s great for people who aren’t used to praying out loud. I have often used it when people have only just become Christians as a way of facilitating them to pray.

As ever, feel free to use this idea, adapt and change it – and let me know how it goes!